Science meets marketing

A few weeks old, but the facts don’t change much in that time: Why does U.S. fail in science education? (from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette). I highly recommend that you read the whole thing. Here’s the highlight:

One of the things that strikes me about these responses is that they may be attributed to marketing: astrology is obvious, but the belief that antibiotics target viruses is, to my impression, a result of marketing approaches taken for household cleaners. Then, it may be a consequence of a lack of knowledge: perhaps many people don’t realize that viruses, fungi and bacteria are completely distinct forms of life?

Let’s assume my hypothesis is correct: perhaps it works both ways? Consider the sound vs light question. About 14% thought sound moves faster than light. Why such a small fraction? I’d guess that it’s because just about every sci-fi show has spaceships that travel “faster than light”. Who even thinks about the speed of sound anymore? As I watched “The Right Stuff” recently on Netflix, I couldn’t help but think “Oh, how quaint” as the test pilots were romanticizing the sound barrier.

The article proposes that the so-called “science gap” results in part from motivational differences, patience in learning, etc. That may be true. But it seems to me that people are likely to believe in astrology, etc. regardless of their motivation or scientific training if they’re accepting the marketing.

So there are really two issues: erroneous beliefs due to marketing of one variety or another, and science education, with an undefined overlap. If you want better numbers in the chart above, you need better science marketing, not just better teachers or students.